Way back on New Years Day weekend, the wife and I got a babysitter and went to see The Blind Side, written and directed by John Lee Hancock, based on the Michael Lewis book I did not read. I HAD been getting a lot of information about this film quite a bit, though as much in Sports Illustrated as I did in Entertainment Weekly. Incidentally, The Blind Side refers to a quarterback getting hit while he’s not looking and the import of an offensive tackle protecting the QB’s vulnerability.
The movie tells the true story of Michael Oher (pronounced like ‘oar’, played by Quinton Aaron), a large, undereducated and mostly homeless black young man. He gets taken in by the Tuohy family, who are white, specifically by Leigh Anne Tuohy (Sandra Bullock), with her husband Sean, a successful restaurateur (played by an almost unrecognizable Tim McGraw) succumbing to his spouse’s single-minded compassion. Their two kids, the boy S.J (Jae Head) and the girl Collins (Lily Collins, who looks amazingly like the young woman she portrayed) go along with the mom’s mission, S.J. quite enthusiastically.
The family, and some insightful teachers, help Michael fulfill his potential, both in class and on the football field. Michael also helps the Tuohys to learn about themselves. Oher eventually becomes an All-American offensive left tackle at Ole Miss and a first round draft choice with the Baltimore Ravens.
I liked it. Indeed, both my wife and I enjoyed it more than some critics (70% positive on Rotten Tomatoes), who used terms like “utterly unsurprising, unchallenging feel-good flick mostly ignores larger social concerns in telling its implausible tale.” Even some positive reviews suggest that it’s a predictable “feel-good sports/biographical drama…by-the-numbers. Yet for the most part, this cinematic ‘comfort food’ goes down pretty well.”
There was also criticism from more than one corner of the “institutional racism” in the film, that it is “rich white folks with big heart save poor black kid” that “needed to be more sociably responsible in its portrayal of blacks,” and that “all black people are not ghetto waiting to be saved.” I’m rather torn on this point. It’s true that most of the black people in this movie were poor and from the ghetto- Michael’s birth mother was a drug addict – and that the major black character, other than Michael, was a particularly obnoxious dude. All of this is true, yet I don’t know how much responsibility a single film is supposed to balance the portrayal of black people. My sense is that, prior to Michael, the Tuohy’s didn’t KNOW black people, so the folks they DID see fit the stereotype. Was the writer suppose to inject an upwardly-mobile black person, other than the woman from the NCAA?
Interesting note: many of the recruiting coaches, such as Phillip Fulmer, Lou Holtz and Nick Saban, play themselves, and I read in SI that not one of them is still with that program, noting the rapid turnover of college football head coaches. The real S.J. Tuohy, who’s now 16, has been razzed by opponents of his basketball team that his daddy needs to adopt someone for his team because “You suck!” And Michael Oher has been hazed by his Ravens’ teammates over the sentimentality of the film; I was pleased that in his last game of this season, he was getting kudos from the commentators for his play.
In any case, this movie lives or dies largely on Sandra Bullock’s portrayal of Leigh Anne Tuohy and she’s totally convincing in the role. Ms. Tuohy also liked it, commenting that she was pleased that Ms. Bullock had “nice ta-tas.”